So we left Pattaya, finally. Then it didn´t feel liky “finally,” but now it does seem that I did not enjoy my time there as much as I have enjoyed it anywhere else – but in order to know something, we must take steps in any direction. Took the bus to Bangkok, which we were visiting the 2nd time now – got so used to Cambodia we thought that the bus would take us about 3 hours (promised 2), but instead – it took only 1.5h. Interesting. Spent a half-day in Bangkok, bought a book and then we were off to Lop Buri – The City of Monkeys!
Lop Buri was really shocking, in a very good way. It was so quiet, in a way remote and small – at least the “downtown” section. Had a very nice vibe to it – much much much different from anything we experienced until that moment. We arrived there at 20:00 and it was very nice to walk around there at night. Waking up in the morning we got a pleasant surprise – a monkey tried to get in (to probably steal something). The monkeys in Lop Buri aren´t very “friendly,” I mean, they are and aren´t. They are not aggressive – unless you have visible food they want right then and there. But other than that they keep to their own things, while on the side jump on cars/people(me)/electrical wiring/houses etc.
We fed them bananas twice – once they stole all our bananas which was fine, because we bought it for them. Before heading to the “Monkey Central” – just a random location, where interestingly no stores were operating, a local Thai woman warned us to keep the food close and block it with our hand. We didn´t really listen, or.. I mean we did – but we just didn´t think what would happen next. Exciting to read? Okay, sorry, I´ll continue.
The bag we had was see-through, so that was probably an “unfavourable” idea, because the monkeys recognized bananas from a far and the bigger and fattest monkey came closer with its army and just started ripping the bag apart, stole most of the bananas. We didn´t really mind, but we didn´t just come here to sponsor one fat aggressive monkey, so we made a plan to return with a master plan.
Second try was much more fluent – I tore the bananas apart and hid most of the them in a paper bag, which was NOT see-through. The hierarchy could really be seen, but there was a way to avoid them “having their way” – simply to feed the one that was smallest, you need to simultaneously feed the aggressive one while having it look the opposite way. They tend to be clever, but everything can be hacked.
After leaving Lop Buri, I really missed the monkeys. Even though they were kinda aggressive and only interested in food – they still had something special to them. I really liked the fact that they were apart of a city and not in captivity.
Now heading to Chiang Mai, Elephant Nature Park. I tried to book the lower sleeping bed on the train, but unfortunately it was full, so I didn´t mind settling for higher sleeping bed, but.. that was full as well. Anything beyond that with air-con would have been fine as well, but.. again – full. So we ended up with a few seats available at the back, fan with inclining seats – I mean that´s totally fine as there was a fan with non-inclining seats as well. Why were most of the seats full? There was a festival coming up in Chiang Mai and locals booked the tickets ahead of time.
The train ride should have taken 12 hours, but it took 14 hours, all together about 17-18 hours from Bangkok to Chaing Mai. But eventually – we made it and.. it was cooooooooold (hence why the title of the blog – never used it before, wanted to join the club as well.) We had socks, long pants and a hoodie on and it was still cold for about 30 minutes in Chiang Mai when walking towards the Elephant Nature Park office. Eventually it got warmer, but the nights here are really cool or cold, I mean, depends on what you are used to and we were used to “f**king hot.” As one of the guides in ENP said – there are 3 seasons in Thailand – rainy, hot and f**king hot.
About the Elephant Nature Park – do you like elephants? Want to support them? Don´t ever visit any circus which uses them, don´t ride them (the fact that they CAN be ridden doesn´t make it okay), don´t even support any kind of activity where you see bad people abusing them. If you want to support them – go visit Elephant Nature Park or just donate money to them, they are doing a very good job. They have 65 elephants + 430 dogs, 200 cats, some horses and a lot of water buffaloes. Elephants can eat up to 220 kg per day – so feeding them takes a bit of money. If you look at the prices – it´s steep, but trust me, it´s worth it. If you can´t afford to go, just donate anything and I believe it will help.
I´d, in a way, like to show you a video of how elephants are tortured before they can be used in circuses, as trekking “devices” and in street begging, but – it´s very nasty. You can look it up or ask me for a video separately, but it is disgusting how moronic people can be. Anyways – what does ENP do? They rescue animals from anywhere possible and give them a retirement option. It´s a place that is basically run by animals – you can touch them, feed them and walk beside them, but you can´t command them, ride them or do anything else, because.. they can attack and once they do – if you provoked them, it´s your own fault. If you´re going there for a week, they include insurance in your price as well – for about 10 thousand euros. No such accidents really happen, because people are careful and if you respect other living beings – there really is no problem 🙂
At first I thought that the elephants might be bored in a way, as they have “nothing to do,” but I wasn´t fully aware of the life they have gone through before getting to the park and.. they do deserve a full retirement. First save, then find something for them to do. The park is trying to constantly expand and they have a vision to make multiple zones and one of the zones could be a “wild/free” zone where one cannot visit the elephants – a place where they can feel free to do anything they wish.
Sangduen Lek Chailert or Lek is the driving force behind all of this and thanks to a lot of good people – she has gone far, but there is still a lot to go. Once you see her and see her talking about this subject, you´ll understand a lot of things you might have not understood before.
I really enjoyed my week there, did a lot of volunteering in preparing the food (washing watermelons and pumpkins) and feeding them, cutting bamboo, cleaning elephant poo/old bamboo, cleaning the park – all for the purpose to serve elephants. The weird thing about the camp was that – in order to volunteer, you got to pay money, which I did not fully understand before seeing it all in action. Now I´m even thinking that the price is quite okay, maybe even low – but I guess a middle ground has to be found.
More information: http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/
After the week I felt quite tired and fortunately we decided to stay in Chiang Mai for a few more days. So we got to walk around, buy some things for ourselves and just enjoy being in a colder climate. Oh, the thing I forgot to mention – the first night in ENP was VERY cold, we had like 3 layers of blankets on and it was still cold. Here – there´s no such problem really, maybe because we´re not in the forest and secondly – we´re staying in a concrete hotel compared to a bamboo/wooden house with a lot of holes in it.
I wouldn´t say I missed the elephants, because I didn´t really “connect” with them, but.. it wasn´t that situation for me to do that. I love the fact that somehow my contribution repaid some part of the elephants history abuse and hopefully now they enjoy their lives much more and just get to relax 🙂
This is our last night in Chiang Mai and we have had some help to prepare for the upcoming cold back in Estonia in 2 weeks, let´s hope it helps. Tomorrow we´re flying South and will hopefully enjoy places we enjoyed back in September.
I don´t know if I mentioned this before, but I really enjoy the cool air here in Chiang Mai and so far I´d consider this place the best temperature wise, but yet – it should be their winter time right now, so I don´t know how the temperatures change when it is f**king hot here.
Bye for now, hope you enjoy the photos and take care 🙂